Thursday, 5 May 2016

The person we seem to be is a form composed of five sheaths

In a pair of comments that I wrote in reply to some other comments on my previous article, Self-investigation (ātma-vicāra) entails nothing more than just being persistently and tenaciously self-attentive, I explained:
What is a person? It is a set of phenomena centred around a particular body, and it has both physical and mental features. Though its physical and mental features change over time, however extreme those changes may be we identify it as the same person because it is the same body that displays those changing features. It starts its life as a baby, and it may end it as an old man or woman, but throughout its life and in spite of all its changes it is the same person. As we all know, there seem to be many people in this world, and each of them seem to be sentient, but what makes them seem to be so?

All the people we see in a dream seem to be sentient, and we seem to be one among them, but after we leave that dream and enter this state (which seems to us to be our waking state, but which Bhagavan teaches us is just another dream) we recognise that we are not the person we seemed to be in that dream, nor are any of the other people we saw there sentient. Does this mean, then, that we were the only sentient person in our dream? No, obviously not, because we are not the person we seemed to be then. That person who then seemed to be ourself was as insentient as all the other people we saw there. Therefore who are we, the one who saw all those people and experienced one of them as ourself? As the experiencer of that dream, this dream or any other dream we are the ego or jīva.

However, this ego seems to exist only when it experiences itself as a person, so it is natural for us to confuse our ego with whatever person this ego currently seems to be. If we think carefully about the matter, however, it is clear that there is a distinction between this ego and whatever person it currently experiences as itself, because whatever person it experiences as itself in this or any other dream exists only in that respective dream, whereas this ego exists (or seems to exist) in each and every dream. Therefore this ego or jīva is not the person it seems to be.

[…]

A person is a form composed of five sheaths or coverings (pañca-kōśa), and as Bhagavan teaches us in verse 22 of Upadēśa Undiyār all these five sheaths (including our mind and intellect) are jaḍa (insentient or non-conscious) and asat (non-existent), so they are not ‘I’. Why they seem to be sentient and existent is only because this ego has attached itself to them, experiencing them as itself. But is the ego actually any of these insentient coverings? It seems to be a mixture of awareness (cit) and these insentient (jaḍa) adjuncts, but it is not actually either. It is just cit-jaḍa-granthi, a knot that seems to exist only when cit and jaḍa are seemingly entangled.

What is a knot? When two pieces of string are tied together they form a knot, but when they are untied it ceases to exist, because it has no independent existence of its own. It is not either one string or the other, but is a combination of both. Likewise, this ego is neither cit nor jaḍa but seems to be a combination of both.

What is truly sentient is only cit, which is pure awareness uncontaminated by any jaḍa adjunct, but this ego seems to be sentient because it rises as a confused mixture of cit and jaḍa. And because this ego rises by grasping the jaḍa form of a person as itself, that person seems to be sentient, and hence all the other people seen by this ego also seem to be sentient.
Referring to this, a friend called Sanjay wrote another comment in which he asked for further clarification regarding my statement that a person is ‘a set of phenomena centred around a particular body, and it has both physical and mental features’, so the following is my reply to this.

When we think of a person, we do not think only of their physical features (such as whether they are young or old, male or female, tall or short, dark or fair, healthy or unhealthy, and so on) but also of their mental features (or personality traits, as they are often called, such as whether they are friendly or unfriendly, kind or unkind, humble or proud, intelligent or dull, cheerful or morose, calm or restless, contented or ambitious, hot-tempered or even-tempered, interested in football, cricket, films, books, politics, science, religion, philosophy or spiritual matters, and so on). All these different kinds of features are the set of phenomena that make up each person.

When I wrote that all these features or phenomena are ‘centred around a particular body’, I did not mean ‘centred around’ in the literal sense of surrounding or being outside but in the metaphorical sense of being associated with. Whatever physical or mental features a person may have, those features are always associated with a particular body, which we take to be that person.

As Sanjay wrote, from the perspective of the person we now seem to be, ‘our mind and all its features seem to be within our body’, but the mental features we perceive in any other person are those that are displayed in their behaviour, so though we assume that these outwardly visible features originate from a mind within their body, we cannot experience their mind from within, as we experience our own mind. Therefore when we are talking about a person as an outwardly visible set of physical and mental features, the question of inside or outside is not directly relevant.

Since a person consists not only of physical features but also mental ones, the entire person consists not only of a body but also a mind. In terms of the concept of pañca-kōśas (the five sheaths or coverings that conceal or obscure what we actually are), a person is a form composed of these five sheaths, so in many contexts what Bhagavan means by the term ‘body’ is the entire person, because as he says in verse 5 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:
உடல்பஞ்ச கோச வுருவதனா லைந்து
முடலென்னுஞ் சொல்லி லொடுங்கு — முடலன்றி
யுண்டோ வுலக முடல்விட் டுலகத்தைக்
கண்டா ருளரோ கழறு.

uḍalpañca kōśa vuruvadaṉā laindu
muḍaleṉṉuñ colli loḍuṅgu — muḍalaṉḏṟi
yuṇḍō vulaha muḍalviṭ ṭulahattaik
kaṇḍā ruḷarō kaṙaṟu
.

பதச்சேதம்: உடல் பஞ்ச கோச உரு. அதனால், ஐந்தும் ‘உடல்’ என்னும் சொல்லில் ஒடுங்கும். உடல் அன்றி உண்டோ உலகம்? உடல் விட்டு, உலகத்தை கண்டார் உளரோ? கழறு.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): uḍal pañca kōśa uru. adaṉāl, aindum ‘uḍal’ eṉṉum sollil oḍuṅgum. uḍal aṉḏṟi uṇḍō ulaham? uḍal viṭṭu, ulahattai kaṇḍār uḷarō? kaṙaṟu.

அன்வயம்: உடல் பஞ்ச கோச உரு. அதனால், ‘உடல்’ என்னும் சொல்லில் ஐந்தும் ஒடுங்கும். உடல் அன்றி உலகம் உண்டோ? உடல் விட்டு உலகத்தைக் கண்டார் உளரோ? கழறு.

Anvayam (words rearranged in natural prose order): uḍal pañca kōśa uru. adaṉāl, ‘uḍal’ eṉṉum sollil aindum oḍuṅgum. uḍal aṉḏṟi ulaham uṇḍō? uḍal viṭṭu, ulahattai kaṇḍār uḷarō? kaṙaṟu.

English translation: The body is a form of five sheaths. Therefore all five are included in the term ‘body’. Without a body, is there a world? Say, leaving the body, is there anyone who has seen a world?
These five sheaths are annamaya-kōśa (the sheath composed of food), prāṇamaya-kōśa (the sheath composed of prāṇa, breath or life), manōmaya-kōśa (the sheath composed of mind), vijñānamaya-kōśa (the sheath composed of discernment or intellect) and ānandamaya-kōśa (the sheath composed of happiness), so what Bhagavan implies in the second sentence of this verse is that the term ‘body’ includes not only the gross physical body (the annamaya kōśa) but also the more subtle life, mind and intellect (the prāṇamaya, manōmaya and vijñānamaya kōśas), and most importantly the fundamental self-negligence (pramāda) that gives rise to the appearance of the other four sheaths.

This self-negligence is called ānandamaya-kōśa, the ‘sheath composed of happiness’, because it is said to be the only sheath that remains in sleep, so it is identified with the peaceful happiness we experience then. It is also called kāraṇa śarīra, the ‘causal body’, because it is what causes the appearance of the other sheaths and the entire world, which does not exist independent of those sheaths, and in verse 22 of Upadēśa Undiyār Bhagavan refers to it as ‘இருள்’ (iruḷ), which means ‘darkness’ in the sense of spiritual ignorance, because it is the darkness of self-ignorance.

Though it is sometimes said that the annamaya kōśa, which is what is also called sthūla śarīra (the ‘gross’ or physical body), exists only in waking and not in dream, according to Bhagavan there is no substantive difference between waking and dream, so just as our present body seems to be physical in this state, in dream the body we then experience as ourself seems to be physical, so in both waking and dream what we actually are seems to be concealed or obscured by all the five sheaths or coverings.

Though it is generally said that in sleep what we actually are (which is just pure self-awareness) is concealed only by the ānandamaya-kōśa, according to Bhagavan this seems to be the case only from the perspective of our ego in waking and dream, because what is called ‘ānandamaya-kōśa’ or ‘kāraṇa śarīra’ is only our self-negligence (pramāda) or darkness of self-ignorance (ajñāna), and what is self-negligent or self-ignorant is only this ego, which does not exist at all in sleep. All that exists and is experienced in sleep is pure self-awareness, which is what we actually are, but after rising from sleep as this ego in either waking or dream, it seems to us that in sleep we did not know what we actually are, so from our perspective as this ego it seems that we were self-ignorant even in sleep. However, what did not know our actual self in sleep was only our ego, but the reason it did not know our actual self in sleep was that it did not exist then, so since what we experienced in sleep is therefore a kōśa or covering only in the view of our ego in waking or dream, all the five sheaths actually appear together in these two states and disappear together in sleep.

Therefore whatever person or body we seem to be is a package consisting of these five sheaths or coverings, which appear as soon as our ego rises and disappear as soon as it subsides. Among these five sheaths, the only one that remains unchanged so long as our ego survives is the ānandamaya-kōśa, which is the darkness of pramāda or self-negligence, and until it is destroyed by keen self-attentiveness, it will always give rise to the appearance of the other four sheaths, which are constantly undergoing change. Therefore whatever person we seem to be in this or in any other dream is a very fleeting and insubstantial thing, which seems to be given substance only by our ego, whose nature is to be self-negligent.

Therefore if we truly want to be free from this ego and all its progeny, we can easily dissolve it along with all its sheaths or coverings simply by being keenly self-attentive. However, so long as we are reluctant to surrender this ego entirely, being constantly and keenly self-attentive will seem difficult, but by persistent practice our willingness to surrender ourself will increase until eventually we will let go of everything and dissolve back into our source, which is just the pure adjunct-free self-awareness that we always actually are (in whose clear view no ego or any covering has ever existed or even seemed to exist).

28 comments:

careful observer said...

Michael,
"the body is a form of five sheats".
Is that concept of panca-kosas(the five sheaths or coverings that conceal or obscure what we really are) the teaching of classic yoga (Yoga-sutras of Patanjali) or Sri Ramana's teaching ?

Swayambhu Nandi said...

Michael,
when you write:
"This self-negligence is called anandamaya-kosa, the 'sheath composed of happiness' it is difficult to understand to me.
Please could you make clear how the fundamental self-negligence(pramada) as a failure(lack/deficiency) of a particular desirable quality can be considered a sheath ? (and further be called the 'sheath composed of happiness') ?

Viveka Vairagya said...

Michael (and anyone else inclined to answer,

The ego is said to be just the I-thought. So, would I be correct in assuming that the ego, being just a thought, being one among so many other thoughts that collectively from the mind, ego cannot be the thinker of the other thoughts, right? The context in which I ask that is Bhagavan's advice (to the ego, presumably) to relinquish the sense of doership. Since thoughts lead to bodily action, and if ego is not the thinker then it is not responsible for the thoughts or the bodily action(s), and thus is not the doer, correct? But the ego mistakenly thinks that it is the thinker and by identification with the body, that it is the doer, right?

Michael James said...

Swayambhu Nandi, the term kōśa means a covering, case or container of any sort, so among other things it can mean a sheath, a bandage, a box, a cupboard, a cup or a bucket. In the case of the pañca-kōśa it is usually translated as ‘sheath’, but could equally well be translated as ‘covering’ or ‘encasement’, because it refers to the idea that our actual self (ātma-svarūpa) is metaphorically speaking covered by or encased within five layers, which are sometimes compared with the layers of an onion. Obviously our actual self is not literally covered by or encased within anything, but so long as we do not experience ourself as we actually are it seems to be covered by or encased within these five sheaths in the sense that they are what is concealing it from our view, so to speak.

The usual order in which these five coverings are listed is from the outer to the inner, the grosser to the subtler, and the innermost and subtlest of them all is what is called the ānandamaya-kōśa, the ‘sheath composed of happiness’, which is also described as the darkness of ignorance and as the kāraṇa śarīra, the ‘causal body’. As I explained in this article, the reason why it is called the ‘sheath composed of happiness’ is that it is usually said to be the only sheath that remains in sleep, so since sleep is a state of peaceful happiness, this innermost sheath is considered to be composed of that happiness. That is, unhappiness is experienced only in waking and dream, when the other four sheaths are experienced, so since happiness alone remains in the absence of those four sheaths in sleep, it is considered to be what constitutes this primal and most subtle sheath.

However, according to Bhagavan the happiness we experience in sleep is not a sheath or covering but our own actual self (ātma-svarūpa), and sleep is not a state of ignorance but one of pure self-awareness. It is only from the perspective of ourself as this ego in waking or dream that sleep seems to be a state of self-ignorance, and that the happiness of sleep therefore seems to be a sheath or covering in the sense of something that conceals what we actually are. Since what is self-ignorant is only this ego, and since this ego seems to exist only in waking and dream but not in sleep, there is actually absolutely no self-ignorance or ‘covering’ of our pure self-awareness in sleep.

Self-ignorance is the very nature of our ego, because we seem to be this ego only when we are not clearly aware of ourself as we actually are, and self-ignorance arises and seems to exist only because of this ego’s self-negligence — its neglecting to attend only to itself. Therefore what actually constitutes the primal and most subtle sheath or covering is not happiness but only self-negligence (pramāda), which is why this sheath is also called ‘இருள்’ (iruḷ) or ‘darkness’ in the sense of the darkness of self-ignorance or self-negligence.

(I will continue this reply in my next comment.)

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Swayambhu Nandi:

Regarding your question about how this fundamental self-negligence can be considered a sheath, it is called a ‘sheath’ or ‘covering’ (kōśa) because it is what seemingly covers or conceals our awareness of ourself as we actually are. It is in fact the primal and most fundamental sheath, because it is what gives rise to the appearance of all the other sheaths, and hence it is also called the kāraṇa śarīra or ‘causal body’.

Another term that is used to describe this primal sheath of self-negligence is āvaraṇa, which also means a covering, veil, envelopment or something that conceals, and which is the primal form or power of māyā. The other four sheaths are products of vikṣēpa, which is the secondary form or power of māyā and which means scattering, dispersing, discharging, despatching or projecting. Just as no picture could be projected or seen on a cinema screen if there was no background darkness, nothing could be projected by vikṣēpa if there was no background darkness of āvaraṇa or self-negligence, so the primal covering (kōśa) that seemingly conceals what we actually are is only our self-negligence or pramāda.

Therefore when this primal darkness or covering of self-negligence is dissolved by keen self-attentiveness, the ego, its sheaths and all the other products of māyā will be swallowed by the clear light of pure self-awareness, just as a cinema picture would be swallowed if the bright light of the sun were allowed to enter.

Bob - P said...

Thank You Michael for your recent article.
So Bob the person is just like a costume the (one) ego puts on or rather projects.
This is very helpful in my understanding.
Bob only appears as sentient because Bob's foundation is the (one) ego which is sentient because it is actually myslef which is the only sentient being because there is nothing else apart from myself the non dual happy being.
I must investigate myself (ego) awareness.
Not Bob the person / personality / mind.
Hope that came out right.
I appreciation
Bob

Michael James said...

Careful Observer, the concept of pañca-kōśa, the five sheaths or coverings that conceal what we really are, is an ancient one, which is discussed in detail in the Taittirīya Upaniṣad and is referred to frequently in various systems of Indian philosophy such as vēdānta, sāṁkhya and yōga. It is also a concept that Bhagavan referred to quite often, such as in the sixteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, verse 5 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu and verse 22 of Upadēśa Undiyār.

The logic underlying this concept is actually quite simple. We are not what we seem to be, so what we seem to be ‘covers’ (metaphorically speaking) or conceals what we actually are. At the grossest level what we seem to be is this physical body, but we also seem to be something subtler, so the grosser and subtler things that we seem to be are analysed as follows:

Though this body is now alive, it will sooner or later become a dead body, so the life within it is distinct from it. This physical body is therefore considered to be the outermost or grossest covering, called annamaya kōśa or the ‘sheath composed of food’, and the life (prāṇa) within it is considered to be a subtler covering, called prāṇamaya kōśa or the ‘sheath composed of life [or breath]’. However, the life in this body is animated from within by something more subtle than it, namely our mind, so this mind is considered to be the next subtler covering, called manōmaya kōśa or the ‘sheath composed of mind’. Shining within this mind is something still more subtle, namely our intellect or power of discernment, discrimination and judgement, so this intellect is considered to be the next subtler covering, called vijñānamaya kōśa or the ‘sheath composed of discriminating knowledge’.

However, though we use our intellect to discern, distinguish, analyse and assess concepts and other outward things, we generally do not turn it inwards to discern what we ourself actually are, so what we actually are is covered or concealed by something more subtle than our outward-turned intellect, namely our self-negligence, which resides deep within our intellect, prompting it to look outwards rather than inwards. This self-negligence (pramāda) is therefore considered to be the subtlest of all these coverings or sheaths, and for the reasons that I explain in this article and in the previous pair of comments that I wrote in reply to Swayambhu Nandi it is called ānandamaya-kōśa or the ‘sheath composed of happiness’.

Michael James said...

Yes, Bob, what we have to investigate is not this person (the set of phenomena we seem to be) but only our ego, the one who rises and grasps this person as ‘I’, because this person is an object experienced by us as this ego, whereas this ego is the experiencing subject, the one who is aware of this person as if it were itself. However, though we now seem to be this object-grasping ego, if we investigate ourself by trying to grasp only this ego itself, thereby letting go of everything else, this ego will disappear, because we will find that what seemed to be this ego is actually only pure self-awareness, which is never aware of anything other than itself, because it alone actually exists.

Sanjay Lohia said...

Sir, thank you for clarifying my doubts through this article. I have a better understanding of this subject now. You say: When I wrote that all these features or phenomena are ‘centred around a particular body’, I did not mean ‘centred around’ in the literal sense of surrounding or being outside but in the metaphorical sense of being associated with. Whatever physical or mental features a person may have, those features are always associated with a particular body, which we take to be that person.

Yes, your use of the words 'those features are always associated with a particular body, which we take to be that person', makes the words 'centred around a particular body' more clear. Thank you.

You also write: 'Therefore when we are talking about a person as an outwardly visible set of physical and mental features, the question of inside or outside is not directly relevant'. This clarity is again important, because we generally try to think in terms of 'inside' and 'outside', e.g. we think that we exist as this body or inside this body, and others exist outside our body.

You also write: so in many contexts what Bhagavan means by the term ‘body’ is the entire person, because as he says in verse 5 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu: The body is a form of five sheaths. Therefore all five are included in the term ‘body’. Without a body, is there a world? Say, leaving the body, is there anyone who has seen a world.

It is significant to understand this, because we usually take 'body' to mean only our physical body, but here Bhagavan is to using the word 'body' in the sense of a 'person'; therefore, when we say 'a person's' features (or 'a body's' features, if used in this sense), we should include the features or attributes of the person's entire five sheaths (or to be more accurate of the outer four sheaths, as our anandmaya--kosha has no features).

It was important to know about our most subtle sheath, anandamaya-kosha (sheath composed of happiness): It is this very kosha that is known as karana-sarira (causal body) or ajnana (darkness of self-ignorance), and all these terms are again synonymous with the terms pramada or avarana (both meaning 'self-negligence'), and this pramada is the very nature of our ego.

Thank you and pranams

Michael James said...

Viveka Vairagya, regarding the questions you ask in your comment, though our ego is just a thought — our primal thought called ‘I’ — it is quite unlike every other thought, because no other thought is aware of anything, whereas this ego is aware of both itself and every other thought. That is, this ego is cit-jaḍa-granthi, the knot (granthi) formed by the seeming entanglement of ourself, who are pure awareness (cit), with a set of adjuncts, which are all insentient (jaḍa). This set of adjuncts, which together constitute whatever person we currently seem to be, are all thoughts or ideas (as are all phenomena), so since our ego is a confused mixture of awareness and thoughts, it is itself a thought, and cannot stand independent of thought.

Just as this ego cannot stand independent of thought, no thought cannot stand independent of it, because as Bhagavan says in verse 18 of Upadēśa Undiyār, it is the mūlam or root of all thoughts (which is a term that he uses in a broad sense to mean every kind of mental phenomena, including all our sensory perceptions, which means that all phenomena that seem to be physical are actually just thoughts or ideas). That is, this ego is not only what is aware of all thoughts, but also what forms or projects them all. Its forming and its being aware of any thought occur simultaneously, because it is only by being aware of that thought that it forms it, and it is only by forming it that it is aware of it, so there is actually no distinction between being aware of a thought and forming it, because they are a single process (called dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi, ‘seeing-creating’ or creating by seeing).

Therefore the ego is not only a thought but also the thinker of all other thoughts. So long as we experience ourself as this ego, we will seem to be the thinker of all thoughts (the doer of all mental actions) and hence the doer of whatever bodily or vocal actions result from our thinking. Therefore we cannot relinquish our sense of doership without annihilating our ego, as Bhagavan clearly implies in verse 38 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu:

வினைமுதனா மாயின் விளைபயன் றுய்ப்போம்
வினைமுதலா ரென்று வினவித் — தனையறியக்
கர்த்தத் துவம்போய்க் கருமமூன் றுங்கழலு
நித்தமா முத்தி நிலை.

viṉaimudaṉā māyiṉ viḷaipayaṉ ḏṟuyppōm
viṉaimudalā reṉḏṟu viṉavit — taṉaiyaṟiyak
karttat tuvampōyk karumamūṉ ḏṟuṅkaṙalu
nittamā mutti nilai
.

பதச்சேதம்: வினைமுதல் நாம் ஆயின், விளை பயன் துய்ப்போம். வினைமுதல் ஆர் என்று வினவி தனை அறிய, கர்த்தத்துவம் போய், கருமம் மூன்றும் கழலும். நித்தமாம் முத்தி நிலை.

Padacchēdam (word-separation): viṉaimudal nām āyiṉ, viḷai payaṉ tuyppōm. viṉaimudal ār eṉḏṟu viṉavi taṉai aṟiya, karttattuvam pōy, karumam mūṉḏṟum kaṙalum. nittam-ām mutti nilai.

English translation: If we are the doer of action, we will experience the resulting fruit. [However] when we know ourself by investigating who is the doer of action, doership will depart and all the three karmas will slip off. [This is] the state of liberation, which is eternal.

What he refers to here as ‘வினைமுதல்’ (viṉaimudal), the ‘doer of action’, is the ego, because all actions are done by one or more of the three instruments, body, speech and mind, and this ego is what experiences itself as these instruments. Therefore since this ego seems to exist only so long as we do not investigate it and thereby know what we actually are, when we know ourself by investigating this ego it will cease to exist, and along with it its sense of doership and all its actions will also be eradicated.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Thanks, Michael, for clarifying.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Michael,

Some more thoughts on the answer you gave on doership. You say it is the ego which does everything. But when the ego is found to be existing, God also exists. So, isn't what Bhagavan said imply that as long as you are under the spell of ego, realize that it is God who does everything, that is, your thinking and your bodily actions, but you end up claiming doership. You seem to be bypassing God and yet at the same time positing ego as the doer. If ego exists, God also exists and hence God is the doer and ego arrogates to itself the sense of doership, and that is why Bhagavan advised the sense of ego in us to drop the sense of doership. Don't you agree?

Michael James said...

Viveka Vairagya, so long as we experience ourself as this ego, can we ever entirely drop the sense of doership? No, because having a sense of doership is the very nature of this ego. Why? For the simple reason that, as Bhagavan points out in verse 25 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, the ego rises, stands and flourishes only by ‘grasping form’, and the first form it grasps is a body, which it experiences as itself. Without grasping the form of a body as ‘I’ it can never rise or stand.

Whatever body it grasps as itself is not a dead body but always a living one, and as Bhagavan explain in verse 5 of Uḷḷadu Nāṟpadu, a living body is a form composed of five sheaths (that is, it is a package that consists not only of a physical body but also of the life (prāṇa) that animates it, the mind that animates that life, the intellect that shines within that mind, and the subtlest sheath of all, the darkness of self-negligence that prompts the ego to grasp outward forms instead of turning within to see what it itself actually is), so all these five sheaths are included in the form that the ego grasps as itself. Therefore this ego cannot but experience whatever actions are done by this body and mind as actions done by itself, so we cannot drop our sense of doership without entirely renouncing or surrendering this ego.

You suggest that it is not the ego but only God who does everything. But who is God? God is actually just our own real self, which never does anything, because it is just pure self-awareness, whose nature is simply to be. Therefore as Bhagavan explains in the fifteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, God does not actually do anything and no karma adheres to him, because all the pañcakṛtyas (the five actions of creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealment and grace, which are usually attributed to him) happen by his ‘சன்னிதான விசேஷ மாத்திரம்’ (saṉṉidhāṉa-viśēṣa-māttiram), ‘the special nature of [his] presence’.

However, from the self-ignorant perspective of the ego, God seems to be something other than itself and to be the doer of all the pañcakṛtyas, so as a concession to such a perspective it is sometimes said that God does everything. Considering that God does everything is an attitude that can help the ego to a limited extent to relinquish its hold on its own sense of doership, but it cannot enable it to free itself entirely from this pernicious sense of doership. No matter how much the ego may try to consider that God does everything, it cannot thereby avoid experiencing a body and mind as itself and consequently experiencing the actions of that body and mind as actions done by itself.

Moreover, so long as the ego retains any will of its own, it is responsible for whatever actions of its body, speech and mind are motivated by its own free will, so we would be fooling ourself if we were to do any actions by our own free will yet believe that we are considering that God does everything. In order to honestly consider that he does everything, we need to surrender our will (all our own likes and dislikes) entirely and wholeheartedly accept that whatever happens is happening according to his will and is therefore what is best. However, so long as our ego survives, it will have a will of its own, so we cannot surrender our will entirely to God without surrendering our ego, which is the root of all our desires and fears, likes and dislikes.

(I will continue this reply in my next comment.)

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Viveka Vairagya:

If we are following the path of dualistic devotion, our aim should be to surrender our own will and our sense of doership entirely to God, but when we try to do so we will always be faced with one huge obstacle, namely our own ego, which is what has a will of its own and a sense of doership. Until we remove this obstacle, therefore, we cannot surrender our will and our sense of doership entirely to God.

Since the nature of our ego is to love itself, so long as we retain this ego we cannot love God with our entire heart, because our love will always be divided between our love for ourself as this ego and our love for God as something other than ourself. Therefore if we want to have complete and undivided love for God, we must surrender this ego entirely to him.

Therefore whichever way we turn, we cannot find any way out of our present limitations (our sense of doership, our own individual will, our lack of complete love for God, and so on) unless we get rid of this ego. And how can we get rid of it? On the path of devotion we are told that we must surrender it to God, but how can we do so? Since this ego rises, stands and flourishes only by ‘grasping form’, and since ‘grasping form’ means grasping or attending to anything other than ourself (because this ego is a ‘formless phantom’, so every form is something other than itself, and everything other than itself is a form), we can surrender this ego entirely only by trying to grasp or attend to ourself alone, thereby ceasing to grasp any form. This is what Bhagavan clearly implied in the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:

ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே தன்னை ஈசனுக் களிப்பதாம்.

āṉma-cintaṉaiyai-t tavira vēṟu cintaṉai kiḷambuvadaṟku-c caṯṟum iḍam-koḍāmal ātma-niṣṭhā-paraṉ-āy iruppadē taṉṉai īśaṉukku aḷippadām.

Being one who is steadily fixed in oneself (ātma-niṣṭhāparaṉ), giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought (cintana) other than thought of oneself (ātma-cintana), alone is giving oneself to God.

Viveka Vairagya said...

Thanks Michael, that makes sense.

Bob - P said...

{You suggest that it is not the ego but only God who does everything. But who is God? God is actually just our own real self, which never does anything, because it is just pure self-awareness, whose nature is simply to be.}

Michael with regards the above from your recent comment.

If God is myself as I really am the non dual happy being. Is it also right to say that the ego which is the creator of everything (duality) is also god?
It is the creator of everything because everything is the ego. But it is a limited God or a limited experience of myself not myself as I really am, the unlimited non dual God who is aware of nothing but itself.

I don't mean there are two separate gods, there is only one God, myself.
The limited dualistic God (the ego) only exists in its own view and experinces myself as many phenomena, in reality it does't exist at all.

Is it wrong to think of the ego as God the creator.

Thank you Michael.
Bob

Michael James said...

Bob, I do not think it is helpful to consider the ego to be God in any sense, because doing so would be confusing two quite distinct concepts. According to Bhagavan the ego is what creates, projects or expands as everything, but this does not make the ego God, because if the ego is the creator, God is not the creator. The role of creator is attributed to God only for the sake of people who do not understand or do not want to understand that everything is just a dream projected and experienced only by the ego.

The only sense in which we could say that the ego is God is in the same sense that we can say that the illusory snake is a rope. When we say that a snake is a rope, what we mean is that what seems to be a snake is not actually a snake but only a rope. Likewise, what seems to be an ego (a finite body-mixed form of self-awareness) is not actually that but only pure and infinite self-awareness, which is the true form of God, in whose clear view no ego, body or anything else exists. In other words, if we investigate ourself, who now seem to be this ego, we will find that there is actually no ego but only God, but until then this ego will always seem to be something other than God.

Bob - P said...

Thank you Michael for your reply.
Yes I see what you mean, very helpful.
Even though the ego projects or creates everything to describe it as I did as a god was not a good choice of word as it could be confusing.
Much appreciated Michael.
Bob

Ann Onymous said...

Ego is the very thinking that there is, or even seems to be an ego.

perennial spring said...

Ann Onymous,
therefore we should destroy that false 'I' utterly in the heart by turning the mind inward. Yes, yes let us deliver from the untruth und make the ego serve as the food of God.

Sivanarul said...

Michael writes in his latest comment:

“If we are following the path of dualistic devotion, our aim should be to surrender our own will and our sense of doership entirely to God, but when we try to do so we will always be faced with one huge obstacle, namely our own ego, which is what has a will of its own and a sense of doership. Until we remove this obstacle, therefore, we cannot surrender our will and our sense of doership entirely to God.”
“On the path of devotion we are told that we must surrender it to God, but how can we do so? Since this ego rises, stands and flourishes only by ‘grasping form’, and since ‘grasping form’ means grasping or attending to anything other than ourself (because this ego is a ‘formless phantom’, so every form is something other than itself, and everything other than itself is a form), we can surrender this ego entirely only by trying to grasp or attend to ourself alone”
“Therefore whichever way we turn, we cannot find any way out of our present limitations (our sense of doership, our own individual will, our lack of complete love for God, and so on) unless we get rid of this ego”

As he says, we cannot entirely surrender to God, until the ego obstacle is there. But that does not mean, we cannot partially surrender to God. That would be like saying to a student who is doing basic algebra, that he cannot become a scientist until he can do quantum math, so he better start doing quantum math right away. Doing algebra now is the partial surrender which in due course will result in the quantum math, which is the removal of the ego obstacle.

In devotion, the focus is not on the ego, but on Ishvara. The bhakthi towards Ishvara finally results in the ego getting struck down. Here is an example of how that works:
A young woman was living a life typical of that age (partying, having fun etc.) which can be basically thought of putting herself and her wants first. Then she gets married. She now works, helps her husband, runs the household and helps her parent and in-laws. In this process, putting herself first diminishes. Then she becomes mom to 2 kids. With the 2 kids and the other things she was already doing, she barely has time even for a moment’s leisure for herself and she ends up putting herself last in everything she does. This is the famous 180 degree turn described in this blog so often.

In the above example, the young woman does not set out to put herself last through marriage and kids. It happens automatically due to her love for her husband and kids. Similarly when the devotee enters in marriage with Ishvara, he/she is not purposefully thinking of putting him/her (ego) as the last (Vichari directly works with the ego. A devotee does not. This is the key difference). The love for Ishvara, when it fully matures, makes it so. This is the striking down of the ego by Ishvara as told by Bhagavan.

Continued in next comment…

Sivanarul said...

Continued from previous comment…

Of course, a devotee does not get to the above with a single act of devotion, unless the devotion is like that of Kannappa Nayanar. This is akin to how a Vichari does not dissolve the ego by a single act of Vichara, unless the Vichara is as intense as it was for Bhagavan.

Michael asks, ““On the path of devotion we are told that we must surrender it to God, but how can we do so?”

If one tries to answer the above question, from the view of Vichara, then one would come to the same conclusion as he did, which is by removing the obstacle of ego. The answer from the view of devotee is by following the systemic path laid out in the devotional literature of that particular tradition (Saivaite, Vaishnavite, Christian etc). As I explained in the young woman example earlier, the devotee’s job is not to worry of the ego obstacle or its removal. That tasks lies with Ishvara. The devotee simply has to start loving Ishvara more and more. This is not by force, obviously just like a woman’s love for her kids are not by force.

Again devotion is via the heart and emotion and not via the intellect. Ego is not of direct concern to the devotee. Ishvara is.

Swayambhu Nandi said...

Michael,
thank you for your further explanation of the primal sheath/covering/darkness of self-negligence and the forms/powers of maya.

careful observer said...

Michael,
thanks for your account about the concept of the five kosa to amplify what has been said.

Sanjay Lohia said...

We have had a lengthy discussion on this blog on the concept of eka-jive-vada, taught to us by Bhagavan. Michael spoke extensively on this subject (in response to a question) at a meeting organised by The RMF, London, held on 23 April 2016. The following transcript is from a video taken on this occasion (from 1:58):

Devotee: [asks a question about solipsism, but the question is not clear]
Michael: What is called solipsism in Western Philosophy is called eka-jiva-vada in Indian Philosophy - the contention that there is only one ego. For example, when Bhagavan says in verse 26 of Ullau Narpadu, 'If the ego comes into existence, everything comes into existence; if the ego does not exist, everything does not exist; therefore, the ego is everything'.

How many egos are there? Only one! . . . in a dream there are many people, and we experience one of those people as ourself. . . . Though we see many persons in that dream, including the person we mistake to be ourself, there is only one ego who experiences it.

So according to Bhagavan, our present state is just another dream, and we alone are the one experiencer [of this dream]. We see so many people because we mistake ourself to be a person, so there seems to be many egos, because our own ego is reflected in all the other people we see. . . . but actually there is only one ego.

Devotee: What is Metaphysical Solipsism?
Michael: In Western Philosophy they make a distinction between 'Metaphysical Solipsism' and 'Epistemic Solipsism'. Epistemic Solipsism means that there may be many egos but I can know only one mind, but according to Bhagavan there is only mind.

Once when this was being talked in Bhagavan's hall, someone said, 'But Bhagavan there are so many of us here, which of us is the one mind?', Bhagavan said,'You are that!'; someone else said, 'But Bhagavan what about me?', he said, 'You are that!'

(I will continue this in my next comment)



Michael James said...

Ann Onymous, I have replied to your comment, ‘Ego is the very thinking that there is, or even seems to be an ego’, in a separate article: The ego is the thinker, not the act of thinking.

Sanjay Lohia said...

In continuation of my previous comment (dated 8 May 2016 at 19:42) on the subject of eka-jiva-vada:

Devotee: It is difficult to comprehend this!
Michael: We can in a way comprehend this, but what we can't comprehend is ajata. Ajata means there is no ego at all. Though Bhagavan's experience was that of ajata, he conceded [for our sake] that there is ego. Ajata says there is no ego, and there is no world, there just is what is. However that is not our experience. We experience ourself as this ego, and we experience this world; therefore, we experience all these troubles. Ajata does not help us to get out of the problems, i.e. out of all these troubles. . . . So Bhagavan took the position of eka-jiva-vada.

Eka-jiva-vada, which is also called vivarta-vada - that is to say, the contention that it is all a false-appearance. The root of this false appearance is one ego that we now experience ourself to be. If we look at this one ego, it disappears, and then we experience ajata, in other words, that there is no ego at all. . . . We cannot conceive this state, because our mind does not exist there.

Devotee: It is a mathematical contradiction!
Michael: It is not a mathematical contradiction. So long as you are dreaming there seem to be many people. . . . you wake up . . . [you realise that] all the people were just your mental dream.

Devotee: To one person Bhagavan says, 'you are that', and to other person also he says, 'you are that'. Each person is 'that'! How?
Michael: Think carefully. Bhagavan says this is a dream. So long as you are dreaming, there seems to be many people. In your dream if you are sitting in Bhagavan's hall and discussing this subject, and someone else were to ask Bhagavan, 'who is that one ego', Bhagavan would say 'you are that'; and if you ask, he will tell you, 'you are that', but when you wake up from your dream, who is the one ego? Bhagavan who said, 'you are that', and the people to whom he said, 'you are that', are all creations of your ego.

The eka-jiva is not a person, for it is the ego which takes one of the persons in this dream as itself. There is only one ego, so it has to attach itself to some form or other.

Bob - P said...

Thankyou Sanjay for posting this transcript from Michaels recent meeting at The RMF.
Very helpful
Bob